Nail Yakupov scored 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games as a rookie after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. His tale has taken a dramatic turn for the worse so far this season.
He’s struggled to do anything offensively, spent time in the press box, been the subject of trade rumors, and had his future in the NHL questioned by Russian Olympic scout Igor Kravchuk.
And that was just month one of a long season. But as bad as things have been, he can take comfort in the fact he’s not alone. Sophomore slumps are not uncommon and if he ever doubts that, he doesn’t have to look hard to find someone whose been through it recently.
“It’s frustrating, so frustrating,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins remembered, according to the Edmonton Sun. He managed just four goals as a sophomore in 2013, although he also recorded 20 assists in 40 games. Still, he didn’t live up to his expectations and his struggles impacted his confidence.
“It’s different your second season, because your role changes.”
In Yakupov’s case, he needs to learn to utilize his linemates and work on his game without the puck. As he makes those adjustments, Nugent-Hopkins is telling him not to get frustrated.
Sophomore seasons don’t always go well, but if Yakupov takes this as a learning and growing experience, then his current struggles could someday be seen as a minor blemish on an otherwise great career.